Browse Tag by Kobo
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eReader Review: Kobo Aura One

Last month, I was lucky enough to get a new Kobo Aura One eReader, Kobo’s newest device that was engineered start to finish with the help of their customers. Sold out in many places until next year, the Kobo Aura One is Kobo’s new flagship eInk device that has been called “the greatest eReader of all time.”

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The Kobo Aura One in its natural habitat.

In addition to standard details like a high-definition screen resolution, access to articles saved from Pocket, and accessibility features like adjustable font faces and sizes, the Aura One boasts a number of new reader-first features, like a bigger screen that mimics the size of a print book,  a red-shift screen light, and a waterproof design. You can also natively borrow library books from public libraries and Overdrive (no more sideloading!). In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that while this is not a sponsored post, I do work at Kobo and this device was a gift from the company.

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Comparison of the Aura One (left) and Glo (right) in size and tone of light.

Before the Aura One, my go-to eReader was the first-generation Kobo Glo, which features a six-inch eInk screen with a one-setting front light. I have always enjoyed reading on my Glo and have purchased several as gifts for friends and family. I’ve also done some reading on the Kobo iOS app on my phone, and on a Kobo Touch (my first device), and a Kobo Arc tablet. Of these different platforms, I’ve always preferred the Glo. I liked that I could turn pages with one hand on the bus; I liked that the light didn’t hurt my eyes after a long reading session like a computer screen did; and I liked that I could throw one device filled with dozens (hundreds!) of books into my bag and never be without something to read while vacationing or in a waiting room.

Now that I’ve read several books on the Aura One, I can say that the reading experience exceeds my expectations after being a Glo devotee. Reading on the 7.8 inch touchscreen feels more like reading a real book, and the page turns feel faster. I like being able to adjust the warmth of the reading light and that you can set it to shift tones based on time of day, although I haven’t tried reading with the full red shift at night yet. You can also set the device to go to sleep or turn off after a set period of time, to help conserve the battery; as a person who has been surprised more than once with an uncharged eReader after she left it asleep for a couple weeks, this is a welcome addition. The screen resolution is sharper, and the device responds to my touch more more quickly than the Glo. And! The new sleepcover has this clever magnetic panel that lets you prop up the Aura One, so you can read hands-free (I believe this brilliant idea was invented by one of Kobo’s own employees). This is perhaps my favourite feature, as it makes reading over meals much more enjoyable. I am wholly converted and I don’t think I could go back to my Touch now.

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It stands!

The only complaints I have about the Aura One is that this is much more of a two-handed device for me; as a tiny-handed person, it’s more difficult to hold the device in one hand and flip the pages. It also takes up more room in a purse and I am pretty sure you would be hard pressed to fit this one into a pocket at all. The brightness of the light is also a little finicky – I was expecting a button to control the light, as on the Glo, but on the Aura One there’s a very sensitive on-screen slider that gives you too many options for screen brightness. These are my only grievances about the Aura One so far but they’re not enough to turn me away from this device.

As a person who reads print and eBooks about equally, I have felt more excited about reading digitally on the Aura One than reading a paper book since I got the device. I’ve also found myself reading more and in longer sessions, and enjoying my reading experience more. If you can get your hands on an Aura One, I think you’ll find that your reading habits are changed for the better too.

Do you read digitally at all? Tell me how you do it and your favourite places to eRead!

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Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Winners: 2016 Edition

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Michael Tamblyn announces the winners of the Prize. Can you spot me in the crowd? Picture via Kobo’s Facebook.

Earlier this week, the winners of the second annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize were announced in Toronto.

As with last year, I was on the internal shortlisting committee, sifting through submissions and organizing the Kobo team to pick the shortlist before turning it over to the panel of author judges, this year Camilla Gibb, Lynsay Sands, and Gail Anderson-Dargatz. There were a lot of titles dear to me on the shortlist this year; I particularly loved Pillow, Debris, Specimen, Born to Walk, and That Lonely Section of Hell. This year’s genre category was romance, and though I didn’t read any of the shortlisted titles, it’s exciting to see these books ranked alongside the more prominent categories.

The announcement event, held at Terroni on Adelaide St., was a lovely, sophisticated affair with many of the nominees in attendance. It was a delight to chat with Andrew Battershill, Wab Kinew, Irina Kovalyova, and many members of the Toronto publishing industry as well. I’m so excited to see what our winners have in store next.

specimenFiction Winner: Specimen by Irina Kovalyova

Of this winners, Specimen is the only one I’ve read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Kovalyova’s stories are sharp and witty; each one is influenced by her science background. The one that stuck with me the longest was “The Blood Keeper,” a novella-length story about a student and her father who go, separately, to North Korea for research.

Non-Fiction Winner: The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinewwab

Immediately following the announcement of The Reason You Walk on the shortlist, Wab Kinew was elected as an NDP constituent in Winnipeg. Related? Perhaps not, but it was exciting to have such a high profile nominee. This book is a heartfelt story of reconciliation between father and son; I’m interested to read it.

Genre Winner: Fury’s Kiss by Nicola R. White

furyI’m so excited that Fury’s Kiss won in this category because it’s a self-published book. In a time where more authors are turning to self publishing as a means of releasing their work, it’s wonderful to see self-published books legitimized and celebrated. And Fury’s Kiss sounds fascinating, with a Greek-mythology twist. I can’t wait to see more of White’s work!

The winners each receive $10 000 and marketing and promotion support from Kobo for the year. Are you planning to read any of this year’s nominees?

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So You Want to Work in Digital Publishing: Getting an Internship in eBook Production

It’s that time of year, when a couple dozen eager publishing students are released from Humber’s Creative Book Publishing program and begin hunting for an internship in the wilds of Toronto’s publishing industry. Digital publishing has become a more and more popular option as the traditional avenues of editorial and marketing positions become scarcer. Digital publishing, although it has stabilized in the past few years, is still a growing aspect of the publishing industry, and some of the more exciting changes in publishing are happening here. It seems pretty natural that keen young publishing students, with strong grasps on social media and technology, turn their prospecting eyes to the semi-uncharted waters of e-publishing. Maybe that’s just how I felt when I was a new graduate, as I felt that my publishing school education had sort of skimmed over some of the important aspects of digital publishing when I began looking for internships. What are the components of an epub? How do you QA an epub? What is metadata, really? Whatever brief lessons we had on making epubs (with Sigil lol) didn’t seem like it actually translated into helpful experience when I was job-hunting. I did, however, have experience with coding and eReading, and all sorts of other computer skills.

Via Kobo on Instagram
Via Kobo on Instagram

I landed an eBook Production internship at Random House, a Publisher Operations internship at Kobo, and later a full-time job wrangling ebooks and metadata. My knowledge skews heavily towards the retailer end of ebooks, but I also have some experience with the publisher side; I’ve worked with ebooks at every stage of their lifecycle, from conversion to epub to deactivating out-of-print titles. Now that I’ve been working with eBooks for over two years and have been on both sides of the interviewing table, I have some advice for breaking into eBooks. I’m going to avoid basic job application and interview advice, such as doing your research on the company and asking knowledgable questions, and stick to what you should know for ebooks in particular.

Excel

My number one piece of advice: Get some excel skills. Like, don’t just say you know how to use excel if you’ve opened up a spreadsheet once or twice. You don’t need to be an expert (I use it every day and I’m not!) but hands-on experience goes a long way. Learn how to use fomulas. Learn how to do a vlookup. Learn the glory of a pivot table. Filters are your friends. Chances are you’ll be working with spreadsheets with lots of data on a daily basis, so get comfortable with the features of Excel. If you had called me up when I was in university and told me I would have favourite Excel tools (Text to Columns and Compare, fyi) and never use Word documents in a professional setting, I probably would have thought you were crazy. As an employer looking for an intern, show me that you’ve got some solid excel experience and I will swoon.

eReading Experience

Needless to say, probably one of the most basic things you can do if you’re hoping to work with ebooks in publishing is to actually read ebooks. Ideally, if you have a specific retailer or publisher in mind, you should read their ebooks, and be familiar with their devices and apps. What kind of ebooks and devices/apps are they selling, and what sort of features do they have? What kind of features do you wish they had? If you come to an interview without having ever read an ebook, or mention that what you’re actually more interested in print books, or not know the difference between a Kindle and a Kobo, you are not proving yourself as a strong candidate.

Metadata

Metadata is great. It’s the core of ebooks and you can do a lot of cool stuff with it; more complete metadata pretty much means your book has a better chance in hard-to-browse ebookstores. I’ll let you in on a secret: no one likes working with it. ONIX is the industry standard and it’s the worst to look at, unless looking at rows of impenetrable, always-different, non-standard lines of code is really exciting to you. Pro tip: you’ll never have to build an ONIX feed from scratch, no matter what your publishing teacher tells you. You will have to crack open publishers’ ONIX feeds and poke around, though. Know what a composite is, what the difference between ONIX 2.1 and 3.0, and what sort of information is transmitted through metadata. Take a look on booksellers’ websites and see what kind of information they display for a book – there is a 99% chance that information came from the publisher’s metadata. Each ebook retailer also has a proprietary, non-standard Excel-based metadata sheet (see, I told you that excel knowledge would come in handy) that some publishers use in place of ONIX.  Editeur, BISG and Booknet all have good ONIX resources. In lieu of actual experience with metadata feeds, experience with coding (XML, CSS, and HTML are all good; mine was in HTML and TEI (lol)) can make up for it.

ePubs

This is the standard (non-Amazon) file type for ebooks. It’s supremely helpful to know what’s inside one (it’s basically just a bunch of HTML files, images and CSS zipped up), so I’d suggest buying one and cracking it open to take a look. There are different kinds of epubs: reflowable and fixed-layout, epub3, ebooks with “enhanced content” like audio and video; be aware of these different formats and if your prospective employer makes or sells them. I know a lot of publishing schools have their students build epubs from scratch but it’s highly unlikely you’ll have to do that in your internship, as most ebook production is outsourced to conversion houses. The most I ever had to do as an intern was unzip, make a minor change, and rezip, so make sure you know how to do that. Find yourself an epub validator that you like (my favourite is Pagina). It’s best to know what a standard reflowable ebook looks like on the inside, and how to make changes, but if you can figure out what’s wrong with a broken ebook, I will be impressed.

All this might sound like a tall order, especially if your digital publishing courses were less than spectacular. However, employers know that it’s hard to gain practical experience with such specialized files, so if you can show them that you’re ahead of everyone else by demonstrating interest and experience, and the ability to learn quickly, it can give you a real leg up. It’s also important to know that your employer will train – it’s an internship after all! Do you have any questions about getting an internship in ebooks and digital production?

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Kobo Emerging Writer Prize – Winners!

One of the exciting things about working in publishing is the chance to not only discover great reads, but to help build the careers of new authors. Book awards are one way of singling out talent, often helping boost the sales of the winning author’s books and launching a long and hopefully profitable career. With that in mind, Kobo created a literary award, the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, which celebrates new Canadian authors’ debut books. With three categories – Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction, and a revolving genre (this year Mystery), contestants have a chance to win $10 000, marketing campaigns, and fame and glory. emerging-writer-prize-logo

I was on the committee for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, coordinating the shortlist judging. I read many worthy entries, full of diverse stories, beautiful prose, and suspenseful plots. Some of my favourites made the shortlist; some didn’t. One the finalists had been selected, they were turned over to judging panel of authors: Miriam Toews, Ian Hamilton, and Charlotte Gray, each of whom chose the winner from their respective categories. The winners were announced at a ceremony in Toronto earlier this month, and lo, the writing careers of three authors were changed. Here are the winners of the inaugural Kobo Emerging Writer Prize:

circus-claire-battershillFiction: Circus by Claire Battershill 

Circus is a collection of short stories focusing on the performance of everyday life, whether it be love, family, or working in a miniatures museum. My favourite was probably “Two Man Luge: A Love Story,”  which detailed the rise to Olympic glory for one athlete and his Olympic-sized crush on his sometimes-rival Paresh. Battershill captures small moments and quiet feelings well. At the awards ceremony, Claire shrieked in surprise at her win and was charmingly smily for the rest of the night. She also met a U2 band member in the elevator earlier in the evening, so she has more than one story to tell about that night.

Non-Fiction: Crazy Town by Robyn DoolittleCrazy Town cover

Crazy Town made a big splash when it came out at the height of the Rob Ford scandal, and has been lauded for its clarity and detail amongst the disaster of the Toronto mayor’s downward spiral. Of the winning books, this is the only one I haven’t read, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from Robyn Doolittle in the future.

last-of-independentsMystery: The Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe

Of the mysteries on the shortlist, this one was my favourite. I was hooked from the first page, where a new client tells detective Michael Drayton that someone’s been sleeping with the corpses at his funeral home. Drayton is just hard-boiled enough to keep you guessing, and I loved the noir interpretation of familiar streets in Vancouver. I talked with Sam Wiebe at the awards ceremony; he was softspoken and seemed overwhelmed at all the attention his book was getting. He told me he’s got a couple forthcoming mysteries coming from Random House, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for him next.

Have you read any of the winners, or do you have a favourite shortlisted book? Let me know in the comments or on social media using #KoboEmergingWriter.